The sun plays a vital role in the ecosystem of the Earth, and can significantly affect human health and well-being. Exposure to the sun's rays causes the body to produce vitamin D, which is needed for strong, healthy bones. In addition, many people find that sunny days and blue skies improve their mood and outlook. However, it is important to note that there are dangers as well as benefits associated with sunshine. It is for this reason that teaching sun safety to adults as well as children is imperative.


Prolonged exposure to the sun can cause sunstroke, which can trigger headaches, dizziness, and nausea. The sun can also cause skin to burn, making it red and very sore to touch. After several days of discomfort the skin will begin to peel, which can be both itchy and unsightly. Repeated instances of sunburn can lead to irreversible premature aging of the skin, as well as the development of melanoma, or skin cancer.


It is clear, therefore, that being in the sun can be extremely dangerous. As a result, there is a huge market for sunscreens and after-sun lotions. However, with so many to choose from it can be difficult to know which one will offer the best protection. All sunscreens should have a sun protection factor (SPF) rating on the label. The theory is that the SPF number represents the increase in the level of skin protection, so wearing an SPF 30 sunscreen should provide thirty times more protection against the sun's UVB rays than wearing no sunscreen at all.


While UVB rays can burn the top layer of skin, it is the UVA rays that cause the most damage, by penetrating deeper into the underlying layers of the skin. Sunscreens will generally have a star rating to represent how much UVA protection they offer.


A higher SPF and star rated sunscreen will provide greater protection, but as a consequence will make it harder to achieve a tan. Since tanning safely is the desire of many people it is important to get the balance right. An SPF of thirty is sufficient in many circumstances, although this will depend on the skin condition of the wearer. Another factor to consider when buying sunscreen is whether any of the ingredients are known to cause allergic reactions.


Regardless of the sunscreen you choose, you must make sure to reapply it regularly for the duration of your time in the sun. This is especially true if you like to spend a lot of time on the beach and in the water. Sunscreen should be applied liberally, and every exposed area of skin must be covered. The areas which tend to burn the most quickly are the neck and shoulders, and the nose, lips, and ears. It is always advisable to take a break from the sun by finding shade during the hottest part of the day, which is generally between the hours of midday and 3pm.


When the sun shines it gives people the opportunity to get outdoors and enjoy themselves. It is perfectly possible to achieve a natural tan during sunny days, as long as you ensure that your skin is protected with sunscreen. If tanning is not your main priority then you can protect your skin further by wearing appropriate clothing. Wearing a hat is important, as is eye protection. Sunglasses with built in UV filters are essential. With the correct eye and skin care routine you will be able to receive all of the benefits of exposure to the sun without any of the harmful side effects.